Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Man made for Opposition.

I know that many Welsh people see Rhodri Morgan as a 'towering figure' in Welsh politics. I don't agree. Yes, he's been very successful in gaining and holding office, and he's remained a very popular figure down the 'Dog and Duck'. But that's because he is extremely able, with a truly remarkable capacity to hold information, an appealing turn of phrase, and a razor sharp wit. But for all these qualities, I've never seen him as a 'leader' or 'a man of vision' in the way Ron Davies or Dafydd Elis Thomas would have been as First Minister. Wales current First Minsiter has always been a man very good at 'opposition'. And that's why devolution has delivered a declining GDP (or GVA if you prefer) compared with the rest of the UK. Its why devolution has not moved forwards as was expected. We have not had a leader as First Minister.

Now I wouldn't have written any of this, if Rhodri Morgan had not used up most of his speech to his Party Conference this weekend as an attack on the 'Tories'. Someone really should tell him that Labour have been in Government at Westminster for over twelve years. So many times I sat in the Debating Chamber of the National Assembly listening to him banging on about the Tories delivering high unemployment in the early eighties - as Margaret Thatcher fought manfully to restore the British economy after the last time a Labour Government had demolished it. He'll probably be saying the same sort of thing if and when the next Conservative Government is fighting to restore the British economy from its near destruction by Gordon Brown. Most current predictions are that unemployment will rise beyond the level it was in the early eighties, by the time Labour leave office - if they manage to hang on until next June.

This is what the BBC report him as saying today. "It is one of the disgraces of these past few weeks and months to see David Cameron and George Osborne traipsing from TV studio to TV studio without once giving a straight answer to a straight question". It beggars belief. We have just witnessed probably the most dishonest budget speech in history by a Labour Chancellor, (probably written by the Prime Minister) and each week we learn of new depths to which the Labour Government has driven the British economy - and he attacks the Conservatives about straight answers.

And on and on he went - attacking the 'Tories' for having a "hidden agenda" to cut public services. Has Rhodri Morgan not understood a word of the budget speech. Does he not realise that 'efficiency savings' are Labour-speak for cuts. And did he not notice the announcement about cutting back the increase in spending to 0.7%, which must mean real reductions, because budgets such as the social security budget are going to continue to grow. And Rhodri Morgan must know (because he is a clever man) that most of Alistair Darling's predictions were such fantasy that its simply not possible to have an agenda more hidden than Labour's.

None of this would be so bad if he wasn't himself inflicting such damage on his own party and on Wales by remaining in office after he's gone into semi-retirement. He's a lame duck First Minister. And nobody in the Welsh Labour Party has got the gonads to tell him to go. Rhodri Morgan is a man who made his name in 'opposition' at Westminster, who led economically unsuccessful Governments while prattling on about 'clear red water' to establish a perception of 'opposition' to New Labour, and has just delivered his farewell speech to his Welsh Labour Conference by reverting to 'opposition' against a Conservative Government that has not yet been elected to office. He is a man truly cast for the role of 'opposition'.


Anonymous said...

Woooo Glyn,strong words ,but true.He hasnever really graced that office. Maybe if he did go then there may be a diffrent atmosphere at the bay.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Glyn> did you just do a sweep-up of my thoughts! Your comments are spot-on!

Likewise your astute observation that Rhodri Morgan has remained in office after he's gone into semi-retirement; I believe this to be a very selfish act, he should have ‘resigned already’.

The fact that members of his own party have not challenged him on this issue is a bad omen.

Wales needs leaders now more than ever. A leader with the drive and ambition to turn Wales’s appalling economy around from an economy languishing at the bottom of the economic league tables, to one that is growing so fast that no one in Wales who wants a decent job would be without one.

Yes, it can be done.

But not with the likes of Rhodri Morgan or Labour at the tiller.

Wales needs a new leader with a new direction, one that is open to building on Wales’s number one asset: its people.

Wales has some of the greatest minds in the world, but Welsh Labour and Rhodri Morgan in particular have failed to turn Wales’s massive people-wealth into job-wealth for the people of Wales.

Jeff Jones said...

This is a bit over the top Glyn. Read the speech which is on the Labour Party Wales website. It is a typical speech that you would expect from any Labour politician to a Labour conference. Rhodri's task wasn't to set out a vision for the future although there is enough in the speech to show that Labour's core philosophy is very different from that of its opponents. His aim was to galvanise the troops to go out on the doorstep in the next few weeks to ensure that Labour retains its two Euo seats. Nothing galvanises the troops better than attacking the Tories or Plaid. What he bascially said was no different from Nye Bevan's famous 1945 book 'Why not Trust the Tories'. Bevan reminded his readers of the Tory cuts after the First World War. All Rhodri did was to remind his listeners what happened in the 1980s. Its very effective tribal politics designed to appeal to the core vote but which contains the nub of what the next election will also be about. Read the Sunday papers and today's reports on your spring conference. Everyone knows that borrowing levels which are essential in the short term but unsustainable in the long term. Both parties will have to set out how they will try to reduce this borrowing. There are already stories in today's Times that Osbourne is thinking about at least £3 billion in defence cuts almost immediately after the election. Voters at the next election will expect to be told the truth. As a Labour Party member who is quite relaxed about 50% tax rates, after all it was 60% for most of the period when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister I look forward to the debate as to how the black hole in public finances will be reduced. Whover wins this debate will set the political tone for how the UK will look as a society for the next 20 years. The old Tory philosophy of just slashing the public sector and to hell with the consequences as was the case in the 1980s will not work I'm afraid. There is something called society. Too many people who were in primary school with me saw their lives destroyed by the neo Liberalism persued by the Conservatives in the the 1980s. A more sensible approach is essential if history is not to repeat itself for the grandchildren of those school friends of mine whose lives were blighted when they were thrown on the scrap heap of umemployment through no fault of their own. Always remember Glyn it was the Tories who created the incapacity culture which still blights too many areas in South Wales today.

Anonymous said...

Not particularly on the subject but did Harriet Harman just say when talking about equal pay proposals, that in a office or factory if you can persuade all the men to agree that women are worthless, should be valued less, paid less money then thats ok as long as they all agree. I'm sorry but then she says she wants equal pay in 2013. Aside from the fact that this is four years away, is she really expecting to be in government by then ... fat chance with that attitude.

Glyn Davies said...

VM - He should go now. No pPrime or First Minister should stay after deciding to retire. Its treating the Assembly like a club of some sort. If he's given a definite date and launched a successor competition (as Michael Howard did) we would see what the runners for the top job are made of.

Christopher - We think as one.

Jeff - Must admit I only read the reporting of the speech. I also accept that it was a 'party' speech where a degree of tribal knocking is to be expected - but it works both ways. I never think of myself asbeing particularly tribal, but I do give it a go sometimes - and this was one of them.

Anon - I don't know what Ms Harperson said but there is no logical or moral basis for anything but equal pay for women. I suspect her hectoring tone has done nothing to bring equal pay about. She just gets people's backs up.

Anonymous said...

it says as much about the rest of the poliitical class both AM's and MP's here in Wales that Rhodri Morgan is thought of as a towering figure in the first place, how a middle class academic has paraded himself as a valleys boyo for all of his political career unchallanged is truly incredible.

Most people could name on one hand the true greats of welsh politics and I agree Rhodri isn't one of them.

I also heard that he might not go until January next year and as he said himself he might even stay if a General Election is looming, im sure Labour AM's are thrilled at the prospect of this dragging on possibly until May next year.

Anonymous said...

As someone from North Wales I have to say that Rhodri Morgan feels like the First Minister for a certain part of our country rather than a unifying force. I’m glad one of your commentators “looks forward to the debate on how the black hole in the public finances will be reduced”. That said I’m afraid however that he will have to wait until after the election for this debate to occur. Reading the comments of Paul Murphy on IC Wales today I am struck by what is the emergence of a very dishonest - crisis what crisis? - approach. The rhetoric of efficiency savings and "Tory cuts" fill the air. Yet we all know that public expenditure will be massively cut whatever party wins the next election. We are fiddling while Rome burns. Another year will be wasted before politicians in power in either the bay or Westminster will properly accept the apocalyptic scale of the problems we face for which they are as equally responsible as the average city banker or hedge fund manager. Anyone reading the IFS analysis from last week outlined on Peter Blacks blog can only gasp at that £45bn will need to be cut from the public finances effectively wiping out the recent large public sector financial outturns. Glyn the idea that some of your former colleagues down in the bay are up for the scale of this challenge is laughable. They will tinker around with meaningless LCOs and posture/support every demonstration outside the Senedd no matter how unsustainable the causes are. In the meantime a First Minister who is fundamentally preoccupied with sport and little else drags on presumably to ensure free tickets for the Ryder cup. What a mess!

A Voter said...

Who can forget his week jaunt, sorry, 'fact-finding mission' to Ireland about the Ryder Cup at a cost of 300,000 pounds to the taxpayer? The sooner he goes the better.

Jeff Jones said...

Any debate on the choices facing the public finances should take place before not after the next UK election. As the FT put it yesterday in its editorial "Cuts are not just pragmatic: they involve ideological decisions about which bits of the welfare state we really want to protect. The Tories are promising big cuts but refusing to spell out where they will fall. Labour is no keener to issue a blueprint for a leaner welfare system. But these are real choices facing Brtish voters. They deserve to be told exactly what they are buying." As I've said in na earlier post I look forward to the debate at all levels of government.

penlan said...

He's always talked a good game and I've always rated him as one of the old Labour types in South Wales who joined the party to get on rather than out of any ideology-hence his purported working class persona,very different from Oxford and Havard.He has spent his life at public expense so there can be little surprise that he has no talent for achieving anything concrete.

Glyn Davies said...

Change of Personel- If Labour AMs had anything about them they would be getting together and showing him the exit sign.

Anon - I agree that until the debate in the Assembly starts to focus on where reductions in public spending are going to be made, the people of Wales are not going to take the Assembly seriously.

Voter - I didntt think his trip to Ireland was unreasonable, bearing in mind the potential of the Ryder Cup to Wales. What I object most to is the use of the office of First Minister as semi-retirement, and the rest of this year as an undeserved lap of honour around Wales.

Jeff - I agree with you on this, but a complete refusal by the Government to be honest about the position, or their plans, betting all on forcing the Conservatives to set up targets for them does preclude the sort of genuine debate you want.

Penlan - You are even more unkind than me. For anyone who has spent a few years in the Debating Chamber will know that Rhodri likes dishing it out, but does not like getting it back.